Governor Bev Perdue of North Carolina on Thursday vetoed a Republican measure that required voters to present a photo ID before gaining access to the ballot.
“This bill, as written, will unnecessarily and unfairly disenfranchise many eligible and legitimate voters,” Perdue wrote in her veto announcement.
The photo ID requirement passed the North Carolina Senate with a heavy majority. It passed in the House by a health margin, too, but the 62-51 passage there is well short of the 72 votes needed for an override. There is a chance Perdue’s veto will stand.
With her veto, Perdue, a Democrat, is taking a stand against what Democrats say is a Republican strategy to restrict voting access and create a more intimidating atmosphere at the polls. Republican-controlled legislatures, mainly in the South but in Wisconsin, Alaska and other states as well, are generating new restrictions and requirements and cutting back on early voting.
In many cases, the new measures prevent voters who don’t meet the requirements from casting standard ballots and allow these citizens to use provisional ballots only. Provisional ballots, however, often are not counted.
Perdue made it clear how she viewed the photo ID requirement and the use of provisional ballots.
“There was a time in North Carolina history when the right to vote was enjoyed only by some citizens rather than by all,” she said. “That time is past, and we should not revisit it.”
Typically, these new Republican-sponsored voting restrictions are pushed as steps to prevent voter fraud.
Such was the case in North Carolina.
“An overwhelming majority of our citizens have continued to support this bill, knowing that it would provide confidence in voting and protect against potential voter fraud,” said a statement from House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican. “It would have done nothing to discourage or prevent voting by those who have a right to do so.”
“Well, I think it’s unfortunate she would veto a bill that was designed to protect the integrity of our voting system in North Carolina,” said State Sen. Warren Daniel, a Republican, after Perdue’s veto, according to the Morganton News Herald.
Similar protect-the-ballot arguments were heard this spring in legislative sessions throughout the South.
Democrats are fearful that the Republican Party is using its majorities in state legislatures to engineer ways to discourage low-income and minority citizens from voting in the 2012 elections.
“This apparently concerted effort on the part of Republicans in state legislatures nationwide to effectively suppress voting is as disturbing as it is un-democratic,” Carolyn Fiddler, spokesperson for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, told Talking Points Memo earlier this year.
Democracy North Carolina, an election watchdog group, said Perdue’s veto killed a bill that would have hurt efforts to get more citizens to vote.
“North Carolina has historically had very low voter turnout, and we’ve been doing better,” Bob Hall, the group’s director, told the Reuters news agency. “The photo ID would have been a tool of voter suppression.”